Scientists at the Shandong University in China have developed a new material made from tungsten oxide and a common polymer to develop rewritable paper.
Believed to be both low-cost and environmentally friendly, the “paper” could considerably reduce the amount of paper being used across the world.
Researchers were able to create a film by mixing low-toxicity tungsten oxide with polyvinyl pyrrolidine. In order to print on it, they exposed the material to an ultraviolet light for thirty seconds – changing the sheets from white to a deep blue.
To make words, a stencil can then be used so that only the exposed segments turn blue.
The changes can then be erased by resting the material in ambient light for a couple of days, or to speed the process up, researchers can add a small amount of heat to make the colour disappear in just 30 minutes.
Although the material does not last forever, as the material can be printed on and erased up to 40 times before the quality begins to wane, the material could offer a great boost to sustainability efforts across the world.
Ting Wang, lead researcher on the project, said:
More paper is now recovered for recycling than almost all other materials combined, researchers said.
“This saves energy, water, landfill space and greenhouse gas emissions. But even more waste could be avoided if consumers could reuse paper many times before recycling or trashing it.”
Currently, recycled paper produces 73 per cent less air pollution than if it was made from raw materials and 12.5 million tonnes of paper and cardboard are used in the UK every year.